Senior Music Critic DAVID HOLLAND goes to Cafe Nero in his lunch break and enjoys the best concert he’s seen all year.
Café Nero (King’s Parade), Monday 17th October, Free
Seeing a concert in a coffee shop was a pretty odd experience. There was no stage or speakers, and until about 10 minutes before the show started there wasn’t even a corner for Kate to play in. But this show was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve seen this year.
The impossibly cute 22-year-old just pitched up from the street with a guitar on her back and a co-performer following behind her. They sat in a corner and started to play to a room full of slightly bemused coffee drinkers.
Playing an acoustic set with the background hum of people on dates and the clanks and hisses of the espresso machine just behind her, I was reminded of the origins of live music performance – before iTunes and global touring, musicians made money by playing to rooms of people who were just chatting and drinking. This was a very refreshing concert.
Kate McGill – Cafe Nero
Kate opened with her her strongest track, Replaced. Kate’s simple acoustic-folk guitar and delicate vocals complemented each other perfectly and helped the uplifting opener break into the short but charming set.
The highlight of the show was her cover of Ed Sheeran’s A-Team. Not only was it both more emotional and up-beat than Sheeran’s, but it managed to avoid his irritating sense of melancholic smugness. The vocals were an octave higher and the guitar was plucked rather than strum to give a more funky and catchy sound.
What this sort of music lacked in originality, Kate more than made up for with both charm and the sheer prettiness of her vocals and guitar. The coffee shop setting also meant that I was sitting directly in front of Kate – not behind a stage or barrier – just across the table from her. It’s a sort of intimacy and connection that you seldom get from genuinely brilliant performers these days.
Even though Kate only played a 30-minute set, I had a fantastic time. The show felt more like a refreshing interlude to my coffee than a full gig, and there were none of the unpleasantries that usually come with seeing live music – cycling in the dark, watching a naff support act, and drunken children to name a few.
The show was just simple, honest acoustic music as it’s meant to be played. And it was brilliant.
Photos by David Holland